The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has described plans by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to leverage on digital platforms and other ICT tools to cover lost ground in the court rooms and generally speed up justice delivery as a reflection of a thinking government.
It said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, that it was the best move at a time that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Judiciary to indefinitely shut down all the courts in the country.
“It is almost exactly one month ago that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Mohammed issued an initial 14-day order suspending all court sittings nationwide, except for urgent matters, which was later upgraded to an indefinite shut down as a result of the pandemic, and since then there have only been very few court sessions.
“We recognize that this shutdown would have led to further congestion of case files and that is why steps taken by the AGF to galvanise the judicial sector at this time are absolutely necessary, especially as there is no certainty on how much longer the country would be in a lockdown.
“So the decision to consider the deployment of ICT facilities to fast track taking of evidence from witnesses, using digital platforms such as Skype and Zoom could not have come at a better time.
“In addition to this is the plan to explore the possibility of connecting NTA stations across the country to courts to ensure that witnesses do not have to be physically present.
“We also find it laudable that there are plans to ensure that court dockets have only a few cases per day to reduce the number of persons in courtrooms and to pave way for speedy dispensation of cases.
“Equally impressive is the initiative that would see pending judgements to be drafted and concluded during a short period, fully IT-compliant courts to fast track digital recording and production of record of court proceedings as well as the move to ensure that lawyers are able to receive them in their mails, or have the judgements posted on the court’s website for any interested party to download.
“We acknowledge that this will lead to greater transparency in the judicial system and pave way for speedy dispensation of justice,” the group said.
It also urged relevant stakeholders to rally round the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami to ensure the speedy realisation of the vision for the benefit of Nigerians in the quickest possible time.
“We know that some of the initiatives need to be backed by force of laws to be enacted by the National Assembly and effected by the National Judicial Council.
“But we also want to encourage Attorney General Malami to speed up his planned consultations with stakeholders to ensure that those that can be effected immediately are carried out to ensure that the courts are opened as soon as possible.
“It is equally important to draw attention to the AGF’s proposal that persons awaiting trial on minor criminal charges be discharged, especially in cases where adjournments have been at the instance of the prosecution.
“This, alongside setting aside special dates, and for judicial officials to work extra hours to decongest their case files, would however demand extra sacrifice in the post-Covid 19 era. We also welcome the suggestion that the 2020 court vacation could be suspended because the lockdown period may have provided judges with the much-needed break from official duties”